Giralda Farms Acquisition
Coughlin Midlige & Garland handled the purchase of the remaining undeveloped land at the Giralda Farms office park in Chatham Township. At $14.1 Million, most of which was funded by County agencies, this was the largest open space acquisition in the history of Morris County’s Open Space Trust Fund. Partner, James Wyse, who handled the acquisition on behalf of the Open Space Institute, a New York-based land preservation organization, said, “This had been one of the most challenging, complex and, ultimately, rewarding real estate transactions I have had the privilege to be involved with. Although unusual obstacles seemed to crop up at every turn in the road, the parties were willing to be creative and forward thinking. The end result is a stunningly beautiful new public park consisting of 135 acres of open meadows and mature woodland, with a network of walking paths that should be open to the public by the late spring.”
Among the things that made the deal peculiarly difficult was the fact that, unlike most open space acquisitions, the Giralda Farms property is subject to office park restrictions and covenants, a number of which had to be amended in order to allow for park use and curtail owner’s association control. In addition, Giralda Farms is a gated office park; to allow for trail use, permission to open up the perimeter fence was necessary. Moreover, funds for the project came from a variety of public and private sources, including the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund, the County Park Commission, the County MUA, and the State Green Acres Program, all of which had their own special requirements.
One of the interesting aspects concerned a demand by the owner’s association that it receive the land on which the main internal roadway is located. However, there was not enough time to obtain local subdivision approval. Jim came up with a solution: because the County is a superior sovereign, it could effectuate a de facto subdivision without local planning approval simply by taking a partial interest in the property. Says Jim, “That was just one example of the ‘out of the box’ approach that, with the cooperation of everybody involved, made this deal happen.”
As part of the transaction, a private investment group also purchased an office lot owned by the Seller in Madison Borough.